WASHINGTON — The release of the U.S. fiscal budget for 2015 is getting a lukewarm response from both supporters and critics of President Barack Obama. The $3.9 trillion budget promises to lower the annual deficit even as it expands opportunities for poor and working-class Americans. But critics say it does so by raising taxes on the wealthy -- while ignoring the nation’s most pressing fiscal problems.
Whether it’s improving our aging roads and bridges or expanding opportunities for low-income Americans and school age children, President Barack Obama says it’s about making the right choices.
“As a country, we have got to make a decision if we are going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we are going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American,” said Obama.
The president proposes paying for some of those programs by eliminating loopholes and raising taxes on wealthy Americans. Republicans say this budget, however, is nothing more than an election year blueprint -- one that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said is bad for the economy.
"It’s time the president realizes that doubling down on the same failed policies is simply not going to work. Yet that's what this budget proposes to do,” he said.
Those who study economic minutiae are not as harsh in their assessment.
Marc Goldwein, a senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said, “I do think the president importantly focuses on investments, and I appreciate that he actually does reduce the deficit in this budget, but I don’t think he goes nearly far enough.”
That's because discretionary spending, which includes things such as job training and transportation projects, makes up less than a third of the nearly $4 trillion the government will spend next year. The largest share will go toward paying fixed costs for entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.
"The smart thing to do would actually be to accompany entitlement reform and immigration reform, so we have this new tax base and we have a system where we can afford to actually pay the benefits," said Goldwein.
Without major reforms to entitlement programs and what he called an unwieldy tax code -- Goldwein said U.S. debt will become unsustainable. While he admitted that lawmakers are unlikely to approve the budget in an election year, he said neither Congress nor the president can afford to wait too long.